I want to go look for America

Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly,
than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and
circumstances, under which our Republic assumed its rank
among the Nations;
The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age
of Ignorance and Superstition,
but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood
and more clearly defined, than at any former period,
the researches of the human mind, after social happiness,
have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge,
acquired by the labours of Philosophers,
Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years,
are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily
applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government;
the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce,
the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality
of sentiment… have had a meliorating influence on mankind
and increased the blessings of Society.
At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence
as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely
free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

[Circular to the States, 8 June 1783 – Writings 26:484–89]”
George Washington, Writings


(Bald eagle in flight over the James River/ Parks Rountrey)

Is it just me???

I suddenly have a great desire to hop in the car and take off.

Taking off into the great unknown.
I want to go off on some grand American adventure.

I want to go find America.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that this nation of ours has been shut down
for basically a year and a half…and in many parts,
she is still shut down.

Maybe it’s because this nation of ours is now at
some surreal war with itself…

I want to see for myself if we are still out there…is this great nation
I’ve always known, still out there…alive and well?

Or has she become a mere ghost of herself?

Many years ago, when our son was little, we decided to take him on
our small version of the great American family vacation.

Sadly we all know how such family vacations often play out.
The parents are typically enthralled while the kids are usually bored
to tears.

And that’s pretty much how it played out for us.
The pictures of smiling parents with a smug kid in tow.

However we wanted our son to see things we knew that were the wonders of
this great nation of ours.
Wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the rugged coast of Maine,
Yellowstone and Old Faithful, the Great Salt lake,
the lands of the American western Indians,
true free spirited roaming buffalo, the settlements of Jamestown,
The Outer Banks and Blackbeard, the painted desert, the petrified forest,
the Grand Tetons, the Snake River, the raw lands of Alaska,
the endless corn fields of Nebraska, the Rocky Mountains…
So we got in the car over the course of several summers and drove..
and in some cases, we flew then drove.

We wanted our son to see parts of this nation other than his own
home in Georgia.

During those formative years, we took him to the west,
the southwest, the north, the northwest, the northeast, the southeast,
while traversing the middle of this great land.

I suspect as parents, we might have enjoyed these trips more than our
preteen son but in the end, we knew he needed to see our country outside
of his own narrow world—all because one day, he would appreciate that
he had seen all these things…he would have a reference point when
thinking about this country as his home.

I know that not all kids have such opportunities…
nor do all adults…
But getting in a car and driving just seemed to make sense.
He probably would have been happier to just spend time at the beach..
but there was just so much we wanted him to experience.

We did what we could as his parents to expose him
to as much of this country as possible—because we wanted him
to see America.
We wanted him to see what our forefathers knew was worth fighting for.
Why a Revolution was fought, why a Civil war ensued, why we have sent young men and women to various wars all in order to preserve this somewhat “perfect union”.

And perhaps to understand this current struggle with our past.

In my little bio on the “About” page of this blog I mention
that I enjoy traveling.
“I also possess a tremendous passion for travel as I feel traveling
helps to make an extremely large and diverse world a little friendlier–
as it calls for understanding and empathy which are results of spending time
in someone else’s “world”—
as all of us on this planet share a very similar human history and relationship—
the things that make us more alike than different are those ties that bind
together rather than separate…”

Spending time in someone else’s world…
Isn’t that what makes those little connections with others?
We begin to see others not as different but as more alike.
Connections that allow us to understand one another??

Yet today sadly, I know that we can’t just hop in the car and take off.
Not today, not now.

Gas prices are on the rise, the pandemic still holds some states
as prisoners while others are being liberated.
And despite being vaccinated, masks are still required,
social distancing is still a thing and freedom of movement
is actually not so free…it is limited at best.

Throw in a mass influx of illegal immigrants and the notion of safety,
in some of our border states, becomes a serious issue.

Add in the continued violence from Marxists and Anarchist groups
such as Antifa and BLM overflowing in many or our Nation’s major cities..
and so visiting some of our major cities is not even an option.

So hopping in a car while hitting the wide open highways,
in order to go see America, is simply now a pipe dream…

However I wonder…if I did get to go out and see this America of mine,
I wonder what exactly I would find…

Most likely a rewritten history of a nation’s past along with
a now very uncertain future.

Is this land really your land and my land…

always remember, end well

“See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save,
and an eternity that awaits us.
The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away;
heaven and hell will never pass away.
Let us take care, then.
The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well.
We have begun badly; let us end well,
and we shall go one day and meet them in heaven.”

St. John Vianney


(a lone iris / Julie Cook / 2021)

When a person sacrifices his life out of love for God,
by allowing God to send him on a given mission or by enduring martyrdom
or by allowing himself to be completely diverted from his own plans and intentions,
it is love that moves him to do so.
This love cannot be equated with the love that people have
for one another, which moves them to regular acts of love of neighbor.
Rather, this person is so gripped by the God who loves him
that his gift of self—however long or short God intends it to be—
bears in it the mark of eternity.

Adrienne von Speyr
from her book The Boundless God

Thankful (a repeat)

As seen on a rural church sign:
It’s not happy people who are thankful…
It’s thankful people who are happy


(painting by Henry A. Bacon 1877 of Mary Chilton stepping onto “Plymouth Rock” /
Mary Chilton is my long ago relative)

(as I stated earlier in the week, ’tis a busy and or crazy time for so many…
So I thought this post from last year’s Thanksgiving was worth enjoying again…
of course it is, it was life before 2020…)

Back in the early 1950s my grandmother, my dad’s mother, did extensive genealogy work.
She had her reasons and I confess that I am so grateful she did

It is because of her exhausting work that both my family, my cousins and I,
have a valuable gift of our lineage.

Lineage, that being the line from whence we come.
Even the Bible offers us the extensive lineage of Jesus—
We are also all a part of that same extensive lineage, yet that story is for another day.
Today’s tale is about a single family’s lineage and the gratitude for that lineage.

Now if you’ve read my posts regarding my adoption,
you know I actually have two family trees.

I have a biological tree that I know very little about.
And I also have an adopted tree, a tree and a people that have each embraced me
as their own.
It is a most extensive tree.

What my grandmother started almost 70 ago was no easy task.

She had to do a lot of leg work on her own as well as seek the help of many others.
She had to write a myriad of letters and make many personal phone calls to various state
record departments as well as to state historians in order to enlist their help in
researching her family’s past.

This was long before there were computers, databases, DNA Genealogy companies—
as archaic landlines were the standard norm.
Most calls were considered long distance…meaning you paid extra for long-distance calls.
But my grandmother was determined.

What she didn’t realize then, in her seemingly very personal quest, was
that she was giving her lineage, her grandchildren
one of the greatest gifts she could give.

That of a collective uniting history.

In those days there were no immediate connections, so her quest took time.

She had to request birth, death and marriage certificates.
She had to scour family bibles and records.
She had to have documents notarized and verified.
She traveled to courthouses.
She had to get the assistance of others in other states to visit distant courthouses
and churches and cemeteries in order to do a large portion of the digging.

For you see, my grandmother knew she had come from a line of people who
were important to the founding of this now great nation and she needed the proper
validation to be able to be granted the acknowledgment by such organizations as
The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Daughters of the Mayflower, The Pilgrims Society,
The Colonist Society, The Huguenot Society, etc.

This woman, who was born in 1896 in a small country town in the middle of the state
of Georgia, had actually come to be there by way England.

But from England, it was first to Plymouth…and from Plymouth, Massachusettes it was
to various towns in the colony of Massachusetts then to the city of Bristol in the colony
of Rhode Island, next, it was to the city of Savannah in the colony of Georgia
and finally to the tiny town of Molena in the state of Georgia…
but the final resting place was to be Atlanta, Georgia.

Her 10th great grandmother was Pricilla Mullins of London, England.
Pricilla Mullins was married to John Alden of Essex, England.
John was a cooper aka, a barrell maker.
John had a dream and Pricilla shared her husband’s dream.

They were on that fateful ship that we tend to remember each Thanksgiving,
just as we remember that first colony of Plymouth and of that first
celebration of not only survival but the beginning of thriving in a new land.

The Alden’s first daughter born on this new mysterious land was named Elizabeth–
the purported first white European girl born to the Plymouth Colony.

So yes, Thanksgiving is important to me on a family’s historical level…
but it is more important to me as a grateful American.

For it matters not how we came…be it those who were first here on the continent,
or if we came via Plymouth, a slave ship, Ellis Island or came with a visa in our
hand seeking citizenship…we have come…
We also have come in various shades of color.
Red, White, Brown, Black, Yellow…

We fought and died creating a new nation just as we’ve fought and died keeping her free.

It troubles me terribly that our society has developed a tendency to gloss over Thanksgiving…
basically jumping from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop…
But we can blame that on our obsession with materialism…
which is in actuality a loss of thankfulness.

Yet what is most troubling is that we now have many voices crying out that we rename this
day of thanks.
Some smugly stated that this is only a day of overindulgence and eating.
They claim Thanksgiving is not a day this Nation should recall let alone recognize.

One of our fellow bloggers, Citizen Tom, offered the following post regarding
our Nation’s Thanksgiving observation and celebration.

I highly recommend taking the time to read his post as it is a beautiful reminder
as to why Thanksgiving matters.

AN AMERICAN FIRST THANKSGIVING

This from President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is,
or that will be–
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–
for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming
a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions
of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner,
in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–
for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;
and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath
been pleased to confer upon us

Lessons from the Blitz and four essential human freedoms

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is,
and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present,
and from the present, to live better in the future.

William Wordsworth


Blitz damage in Coventry, November 1940 (© IWM)

Throughout much of the past couple of months leading up to last week’s
debacle, I mean election,
I’ve been slowly making my way through my latest read…a book by Erik Larson.

I had read other books by Larson in years past, and I expected this current read to be right
on par with his previous books…books that look back to a past of darker days…
darker than the days of our current time…
As in yes, there have been darker times…if you can imagine such.

The book is titled The Splendid and The Vile:
A Saga of Chruchill, Family, And Defiance During the Blitz

I can’t even begin to do justice here, within my small reflections, as to what it was like
for the British people to live through the nightly bombings of their cities, towns
and villages by the German Luftwaffe.

For 8 long months, every single day—hundreds of German planes filled the skies
over the United Kingdom dropping tons upon tons of explosives and incendiary deceives
indiscriminately over an innocent people–only to leave destruction and death in their wake.

When the bombings stopped, over 32,000 civilians had been killed.
Over 87,000 had been maimed, burned, and injured.
Of those, 7,736 children were killed and 7,622 were seriously injured
while many were left orphaned.

London alone endured 57 straight nights and days of bombings.

The bombings took place predominantly at night but would, at times, happen both day and night.
As in a double whammy of insult and injury.

Sirens would sound, people would run for shelter as their world, bodies
and lives were literally shattered.

In just one single night, November 14, 1940, 16,000 bombs were dropped on the
city of Coventry.
The ancient 14th-century Cathedral in Coventry was just one of many churches
which would take a direct hit


(Death from the skies: An aerial view of the wrecked cathedral / The Mirror)


Winston Churchill and the Mayor Alfred Robert Grindlay visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in September 1941
Horton (Capt)-War Office official photographer-This is photograph H 14250 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

In London, the fickleness of war was clearly evident when after
London’s worst day of bombing, St. Pauls Cathedral appeared triumphantly and
miraculously to rise up from out of the smoke and ash.


St Paul’s Cathedral survives the Blitz, December 1940 (© IWM)

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33314462

Yet, as with all wars, the human toll is unimaginable.


(Upper Norwood, London, 1944 (© IWM) )

In early 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address.

In his speech, the President spoke of the lend-lease act that he was
going to be presenting to Congress…
a plan intended on assisting the British people without the US technically involving
herself in a war that the United States wasn’t keen on participating in.

“The future and the safety of our country and of our democracy
are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders…”
the President noted.
According to Larson, Roosevelt described a world to come that would be founded upon
“four essential human freedoms” :
speech, worship, and freedom from want and fear

It has been 79 years since Roosevelt’s speech.
Since that time, there have been other wars, police actions, along with a myriad of
perils that have each threatened both our democracy and that of the
pillars of Western Civilization.

And yet throughout it all, those four essential freedoms have stood the test of time…

They stand in part because of the foundation found buried deep in the fortitude
of the human spirit…along with that of determined and clear-minded leadership.

Those were dark and dire days and yet Western Civilization prevailed over the
chokehold of fascism, socialism, and communism.

My hope and prayer for our world today is that none of those past perils shall
be forgotten or tossed aside as today’s leadership and her people seem to be
giddily racing to embrace that which we once fought so hard to defeat.

‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this
world of sin and woe.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except
for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…’

Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

Everyone is in favor of free speech.
Hardly a day passes without its being extolled,
but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like,
but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston S. Churchill

a study in tense

From Holy Saturday 2017:

“To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but,
the more I reflect on it,
the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life:
we are still awaiting Easter;
we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.”

― Pope Benedict XVI, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977

“Bible teaching about the Second Coming of Christ was thought of as “doomsday” preaching.
But not anymore.
It is the only ray of hope that shines as an ever brightening beam in a darkening world.”

Billy Graham

One cannot and must not try to erase the past
merely because it does not fit the present.

Golda Meir


(the beginning cracks of life in the robin’s nest / Julie Cook / 2017)

Past
Present
Future

He was born and He lived.
He died and He was buried.
He rose and He will come again…..

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the
body ruled by sin might be done away with,
that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives,
he lives to God.

Romans 6:3-10

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

‘unthankful day’???

Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ungratefulness is worse than a cancer; it eats away at your soul;
blinding your heart and eyes to the beauty and miracles that are
all around us each day in our lives.

Geraldine Vermaak


(a storefront window seen in Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, I certainly hope everyone had a warm, happy and thanks-filled Thanksgiving!

Whether yours was small and quiet or large and raucous, I hope you had
some time for a bit of private and or even vocal reflection…
being able to reflect upon what it was and is that you have in your life to be
thankful for and over.

I made mention, in one of my posts prior to my brief Thanksgiving hiatus, that
I was concerned about our society’s obsessive frenzy over of all things black,
cyber and local shopping for Christmas, as we hurridly hop from Halloween to Christmas
flippantly glossing over Thanksgiving…

That in our zest and zeal, for all things of consumerism and materialism,
we forget the importance that first and foremost, there must always be gratitude.

Like many other families and individuals, our little crew took the show on the road
this Thanksgiving.
We ventured to Georgia’s first city…the city of her inception, Savannah.

There’s a bit of personal history there and I’ll chat about that another day…
but for today, my focus is on that of being thankful.

Thursday, before we were to sit down and break bread over our own Thanksgiving dinner,
we enjoyed a leisurely stroll throughout this Southern historic city.
As we made our way through the city’s shopping district, we noted that there were
actually, a few businesses open, while the majority were closed for the observation of Thanksgiving.

As I would expect nothing less.
Families and individuals being able to take a day for a national observation of
gratitude.

I stopped in front of a local business that had posted a bit of a diatribe on their
storefront window extolling the importance of an “Unthanksgivng Day” as they
opted to stand with the indigenous people.
Decolonize this place they said??

Huh?

First I thought to myself, “here you are closed, on a national day of Thanksgiving so
perhaps you should have actually been open to show your true discontent…
or is that malcontent?
But instead, you were closed, most likely indulging in the day…”

And then I pondered the notion of decolonization…as in are we all to vacate this
Nation of ours, heading back to whatever land was that of our ancestors,
telling the last one out to leave a single light on.

The following day, I caught a news story in the same vein of thinking.
It was a story about how the disgruntled, or is that disgraced,
former football QB Colin Kaepernick, who had attended an
“Unthanksgiving Day” on Alcatraz Island, of all places, vocalized his endorsement for
an Indigenous People’s day while espousing the need to do away
with Thanksgiving.

Sigh.

Again, I thought, ‘here is a very blessed young American man who has had so very
much in his life to be thankful over and for, yet he’s promoting the notion of
being Unthankful…”

It makes no sense to me.

Am I the only one who sees the egregious irony in someone having been adopted
as a baby and in turn, afforded so very much love and opportunities, opportunities
found in a great land of freedom and just that, opportunity, and yet here he is touting
a day of Unthanksgiving?
Is not this unthanksgivng just another word for ingratitude?
As in unthankful?
As in ungrateful.

Oh, I get it.
I get what this is all about.
I get the gist behind all of this being that our Native American populations have grievously
suffered over the centuries at the hands of the white European’s first arrival and then
the ensuing conquest of the new land.

I have often said we owe a great deal to our native Americas past and present,
but try as we like, we cannot rewrite our history.
We can’t do away with Columbus Day despite his treatment of the locals upon landing…
because he also opened a great door.

We can’t discredit that.

We can’t decolonize a nation or toss out Thanksgiving because Pilgrims
have gotten more attention than their local native hosts.

That is what much of this millennial disgruntlement seems to be about…
a desire to rewrite an often less than stellar history.

But here’s the thing—you can’t rewrite your history…it is what it is.

It is there for better or for worse, in hopes that you will learn from it
not erase it just because you don’t like it.
It will not disappear no matter how hard you try to turn it into
something it never was.

That you will learn from what was
Grow from what was.
That you do not repeat the negative of what was.
But rather that you may find that which must be celebrated and
in turn, offer thanks…

Do not grouse.
Do not complain.
Do not lament.
Do not have a temper tantrum over that which you do not fully grasp
understand or truly know…
And do not whine over that which you cannot change.

But rather learn, grow and rejoice.

Be grateful.

Do not ask what is there to be grateful for…
the list is endless.

Be thankful for the others, who went before you, offered their lives
so you could live in a place that allows you to grouse, to complain
to have temper tantrums while you opt to hashtag everything that
comes across your phone.

Find your gratitude not your negativity.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more
people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:15

Thankful

As seen on a rural church sign:

It’s not happy people who are thankful…
It’s thankful people who are happy


(painting by Henry A. Bacon 1877 of Mary Chilton stepping onto “Plymouth Rock” /
Mary Chilton is my long ago relative)

Back in the early 1950s my grandmother, my dad’s mother, did extensive genealogy work.
She had her reasons and I confess that I am so grateful she did

It is because of her exhausting work that both my family, my cousins and I,
have a valuable gift of our lineage.

Lineage, that being the line from whence we come.
Even the Bible offers us the extensive lineage of Jesus—
We are also all a part of that same extensive lineage, yet that story is for another day.
Today’s tale is about a single family’s lineage and the gratitude for that lineage.

Now if you’ve read my posts regarding my adoption,
you know I actually have two family trees.

I have a biological tree that I know very little about.
And I also have an adopted tree, a tree and a people that have each embraced me
as their own.
It is a most extensive tree.

What my grandmother started almost 70 ago was no easy task.

She had to do a lot of leg work on her own as well as seek the help of many others.
She had to write a myriad of letters and make many personal phone calls to various state
record departments as well as to state historians in order to enlist their help in
researching her family’s past.

This was long before there were computers, databases, DNA Genealogy companies—
as archaic landlines were the standard norm.
Most calls were considered long distance…meaning you paid extra for long-distance calls.
But my grandmother was determined.

What she didn’t realize then, in her seemingly very personal quest, was
that she was giving her lineage, her grandchildren
one of the greatest gifts she could give.

That of a collective uniting history.

In those days there were no immediate connections, so her quest took time.

She had to request birth, death and marriage certificates.
She had to scour family bibles and records.
She had to have documents notarized and verified.
She traveled to courthouses.
She had to get the assistance of others in other states to visit distant courthouses
and churches and cemeteries in order to do a large portion of the digging.

For you see, my grandmother knew she had come from a line of people who
were important to the founding of this now great nation and she needed the proper
validation to be able to be granted the acknowledgment by such organizations as
The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Daughters of the Mayflower, The Pilgrims Society,
The Colonist Society, The Huguenot Society, etc.

This woman, who was born in 1896 in a small country town in the middle of the state
of Georgia, had actually come to be there by way England.

But from England, it was first to Plymouth…and from Plymouth, Massachusettes it was
to various towns in the colony of Massachusetts then to the city of Bristol in the colony
of Rhode Island, next, it was to the city of Savannah in the colony of Georgia
and finally to the tiny town of Molena in the state of Georgia…
but the final resting place was to be Atlanta, Georgia.

Her 10th great grandmother was Pricilla Mullins of London, England.
Pricilla Mullins was married to John Alden of Essex, England.
John was a cooper aka, a barrell maker.
John had a dream and Pricilla shared her husband’s dream.

They were on that fateful ship that we tend to remember each Thanksgiving,
just as we remember that first colony of Plymouth and of that first
celebration of not only survival but the beginning of thriving in a new land.

The Alden’s first daughter born on this new mysterious land was named Elizabeth–
the purported first white European girl born to the Plymouth Colony.

So yes, Thanksgiving is important to me on a family’s historical level…
but it is more important to me as a grateful American.

For it matters not how we came…be it those who were first here on the continent,
or if we came via Plymouth, a slave ship, Ellis Island or came with a visa in our
hand seeking citizenship…we have come…
We also have come in various shades of color.
Red, White, Brown, Black, Yellow…

We fought and died creating a new nation just as we’ve fought and died keeping her free.

It troubles me terribly that our society has developed a tendency to gloss over Thanksgiving…
basically jumping from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop…
But we can blame that on our obsession with materialism…
which is in actuality a loss of thankfulness.

Yet what is most troubling is that we now have many voices crying out that we rename this
day of thanks.
Some smugly stated that this is only a day of overindulgence and eating.
They claim Thanksgiving is not a day this Nation should recall let alone recognize.

One of our fellow bloggers, Citizen Tom, offered the following post regarding
our Nation’s Thanksgiving observation and celebration.

I highly recommend taking the time to read his post as it is a beautiful reminder
as to why Thanksgiving matters.

AN AMERICAN FIRST THANKSGIVING

This from President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is,
or that will be–
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–
for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming
a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions
of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner,
in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–
for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;
and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath
been pleased to confer upon us

Hummmm…..

Yesterday’s infusion becomes today’s coagulation, which in turn,
becomes tomorrow’s clarified nectar…or so I’m hoping.

cookie

Now let’s retrace our steps.

Yesterday we peeled 11 lemons and added the peels (minus the white pith) to 3 cups
cognac and 3 cups brandy…and let it steep for 24 hours.

And thus we’ve gone from this on Monday…

To this on Tuesday…

A curdled heady aromatic pot of who knows what.

Waiting for about 2 hours, I next poured the coagulated mess through some cheesecloth
and a fine-mesh strainer.

After staining, the remaining liquid will be moved to the fridge where it will sit for
another 24 hours, allowing any remaining “curds” to settle.
After sitting and settling, I’ll strain the liquid through a coffee filter.

Benjamin Franklin used a jelly bag…or so said the recipe he’d
handwritten and shared with a friend.
Aren’t handwritten recipes great?
They just keep getting passed around…albeit it spotted, yellowed and torn.

I don’t know what a jelly bag is and thus, doubt I own one…
hence the coffee filter and cheesecloth.

I did previously add to this putrid looking mess some cardamon pods, a single star anise,
a broken cinnamon stick, a fully grated nutmeg along with 2 cups of lemon juice,
1 1/2 cups of sugar, 4 cups of water and 4 cups of boiling milk…

All resulting in the curdled mess now staring up at us from the pot.

I dared to taste it, stealing a small spoonful this morning.

It’s pretty boozy as well as heavy on the lemon.
Maybe too lemony—

I was hit with a taste of bitterness but of course,
that was before I added the sugar, water, and milk.

I’m beginning to think that 11 lemon peels and 2 cups of juice may have been all of
a bit of an overkill.

But Ben said to do it and so I did.
How can I argue with the man who wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac?!

The sampling I had tasted down at the beach had been made with pineapple.
Since I’m not a huge pina colada, tropical drink kind of fan, I stuck to Ben’s original recipe
and opted not to introduce any pineapple.

I did deviate slightly however and threw in a few cardamon pods.
I like cardamon as it reminds me of a warm Fall cozy evening.
I also sprinkled in some cinnamon along with the broken stick as I like a heavy dose of
cinnamon in my Fall goodies.

I’m now wondering if adding a vanilla pod might have been a nice touch.

As you can see in the picture below, the curds were caught in the cheesecloth…

The strained liquid, which is still rather cloudy and reminds me of apple cider, will sit
for a day or so before it goes through more filtration.

The taste is spicy, warm, and again, very boozy…but in a soft sort of way.

We’re off to see the Mayor and Sheriff tomorrow so the final presentation will have to wait
a day or so longer— but trust me…
we’ve come this far and by gosh, we will have an official presentation if it kills me…

And let’s hope that drinking this stuff won’t…kill me!

I’ll also pass on Mr. Franklin’s recipe.

And I suppose that there might be some of you wondering why in the heck I would go
to such trouble just to make a simple drink…or more aptly, a most complicated drink?!

Maybe it’s because the mountain was there and I wanted to climb it…
Maybe it’s because I’ve been missing that creative spark in my life.

Or maybe it’s in part because it’s something that harkens back to a
different day and time.

It takes us back to a time when taking one’s time was appreciated.
It was a time when taking the time to do something that was somewhat painstaking
and was in turn, shared with others,
was equally appreciated as both a product and a preparation.
There is a deep sense of satisfaction in that.

It harkens to a time when we didn’t take everything for granted…
knowing that we could simply run out to a store and buy what our tastes might
be yearning for…
As in there were no grub hubs or uber eats back then.
The work from our hands filled our needs and wants and thus that was where our satisfaction
was found.

It was a time when things like lemons and spices were not readily available.
So when you could find them, afford them, they were savored and relished.

And thus savoring and relishing while feeling a sense of accomplishment and gratitude
is certainly reason enough…or at least it is for me.
And since it is indeed Fall…there’s no better time for slowing down,
savoring and reflecting upon some past simple pleasures.

Cheers!

deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…